Can’t Lay Lands to the Woman Anymore

Every once in a while
I’ll ride west from Fresno to Mendota.
Veer southwest from Mendota,
twenty minutes or so across the San Luis Canal.
Then head generally south on dusty roads
a few more miles till you come to my parents’
old wooden shack on the Cheney Ranch.
An austere flat roof ruin on mostly abandoned land
along the water right of way to L.A.
The surrounds are beige alluvium from the Coast Range
off to the west and there’s some rough mountains
up there named after a girl, who grew
to be an old woman, probably died long ago.

Often you can’t see the mountains
because they’re behind dirty air.
The ruined shack itself is barely alive in the late afternoon.
I parked the white bike and went inside.
Gray rotting tires and broken sprinkler pieces
kept the walls from falling in, and my mother’s first kitchen
was painted a very bad — aqua.

I went outside and rolled a smoke.
Across the road there was a faded yellow crawler tractor
on the edge of a dry field and in the old days
it was about time for the shift change —
where the day man had to get ready for the night man.

He would aim his tractor and disk
toward the rough mountains named after the girl.
Disk to far end of the field, that was called a through,
turn around and come back beside the through,
that was called a round. Move south half a telephone pole
and do it again six or seven times.
That was called laying lands for the night man
because the night man couldn’t see the mountains.

And whatever kind of woman
the girl became, that was some seventy years ago —
and now the dirty air has changed things.
In the late afternoon, the dust of the matter blocks your sight
so you can’t lay lands to the woman anymore …